YOU have to be careful when offering money-saving tips these days. People are anxious. Some are frightened. Many are angry. Faced with the prospect of their energy bills rising by thousands of pounds, they don’t want lectures on how to get 20p off a carton of milk.

Earlier this year Kirstie Allsopp felt the wrath of Generation Z when she suggested they might give up Netflix and takeaway coffees in order to boost their savings. On social media, well-meaning folk are scolded for offering budgeting tips to those howling with rage about the spiralling cost of living. Messages of solidarity and sympathy are appreciated by those in a panic; the suggestion they could be handling their meagre finances better is not.

And yet, here goes. The fact remains that many people are spending more money every day than they need to be – and while the potential savings may not outweigh the hike in bills that’s coming down the track, that doesn’t mean the only appropriate response for those in a panic is to throw their hands up in despair (and throw money down the drain).

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Consumer dismay is justified when stores keep raising prices, but sometimes dropping them provokes a backlash too. Price-conscious customers are increasingly wise to Tesco’s “Clubcard prices” ruse, whereby the standard price is significantly inflated in order to make the most loyal customers feel like they’re getting a bargain (even when the “bargain” price is still higher than the standard price of rival stores). Having said that, some 19 million people apparently have Tesco Clubcards and of course they will not all be loyal to the chain. Why would they be?

Increasingly it makes little sense to go without a raft of loyalty cards and pay a premium, even if you shop in a given chain infrequently. You might not rack up many points but you’ll be eligible for discounts as soon as you start swiping, or will receive tailored deals. Sainsbury’s offers reduced prices on products you’ve previously bought at full price – as long as you have a Nectar account and are willing to scan your own barcodes as you go.

Yes, this means less work for supermarket staff and yes, the trade-off for having a loyalty card is giving these companies access to data about your shopping habits, but in the current climate those who are holding out may need to assess what level of stubbornness tax they are willing to pay.

The National: Tesco is expanding its Clubcard Prices scheme to include its meal deal (Photo: Getty Images)

A Tesco meal deal is £3 with a Clubcard and £3.50 without – buy five a week for a year and that’s a £130 surcharge just to keep private your fondness for BLT sandwiches and Innocent smoothies. If I accept the invitation from Sainsbury’s to stockpile kitchen roll and toilet this week, I’ll save 63p on four of the former and 98p on nine of the latter, which is not to be sniffed at (and no doubt similar deals will pop up if I buy a box of tissues).

Of course, not everyone is in a position to stock up – and those who have the least invariably end up paying the most for their essentials because they can’t drive to a big supermarket, can’t use an app when they get there and can’t afford to order enough online in one go to qualify for cheap delivery. The kind of discount deals referenced above are seldom applied to the very cheapest products.

This week has seen manufactured outrage over the packaging for Asda’s new “Just Essentials” range, which is yellow in contrast to the joyless, prison-issue white of its previous “Smart Price” range. I wouldn’t be surprised if Asda had in fact manufactured the outrage itself, as the upshot is that a far greater number of people will now be aware that the new range (presumably designed to imitate the yellow stickers that signify a price reduction) has twice as many items as the old one.

In response to suggestions that the gaudy packaging is a “poverty marker”, the supermarket responded: “We don’t understand why anyone would feel embarrassed for saving money.” I’m sure they do, in fact, understand why this would be.

Pride and shame are reasons why some people – generally those who can least afford to waste money – may feel embarrassed about buying own-brand ranges or cut-price produce. One benefit to loyalty schemes becoming increasingly app-based is that discounts are applied digitally, without the need for the paper coupons of days past that marked out thrifty shoppers to the others in the queue.

But of course those with the very least do not have smartphones, and those with a little more are likely to be time-poor due to caring responsibilities and poverty-pay jobs, and have more important things to do than monitor the price of mince.

The notion of cheap meals as “poverty markers” is false and must be challenged. Some of the richest people are also the most frugal, feeling no shame about buying wilted veg, wearing ragged clothes, driving old bangers or indeed living in crumbling mansions. There’s nothing undignified about eating own-brand food, or playing the supermarkets at their own game by exploiting their cheapest deals while dodging the biggest mark-ups.

Forget about loyalty – but don’t pay the price for paranoia or pride.